How we lost it and how we fought back
By Nathan Law with Evan Fowler
240 million. Experiment. Paper, $15.95.
The dismantling of Hong Kong has long since become one of the most painful disasters in East Asia. Over the past few years, the city has literally been on fire: booksellers kidnapped, student protesters beaten, free press strangled, election laws revised to ensure only “people who are not” patriotic” can run for office. As 2021 closes and Beijing hawks take control of the legislature, statues commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre have been removed from the university campus. “How has Asia’s freest, most open and cosmopolitan city… changed so fundamentally?” Activist Law asks the question in this philosophical memoir, written from life in exile in London. “How can a prosperous and free society be undermined from within?”
Never been a particularly political kid, Law remembers attending his first prayer service as a teenager and crying over pamphlets. At the time of the popular Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, Law was a student activist, peacefully organizing for electoral reform; Three years later, when he won the post at the age of 23, he was stripped of his command and sent to prison. Back in 2014, Law wrote, “riot police were deployed against a generation in Hong Kong that did not know violence”; In 2019, the year of Hong Kong’s biggest protests to date, some protesters carried notes saying goodbye to their families in case they were beaten to death. The law leaves next year. Today, every Umbrella Movement organizer has been jailed or fled abroad, saying that “free Hong Kong” is a criminal offense and that “everyone is being arrested for possessing the stickers”.
Half memoir, half speech, the book often dissolves into vague stories of “liberal flames” and textbook bullet points on the rule of law. “Liberty” could be stronger if it explored Hong Kong through the lens of Law’s own history. In the 90s, his father came from Guangdong to Hong Kong in a gondola; the rest of his family followed two years after the 1997 handover. “Since 2014, I have been regularly arrested,” Law wrote calmly at one point, a clear illustration of the extent of the change. city, and possibly still.
HOW I SURVEILLED AN OLD CHINESE “RECEPTION” CAMP
Story of a Uyghur woman
By Gulbahar Haitiwaji and Rozenn Morgat
Translated by Edward Gauvin
256 million. Seven Stories. $26.95.
Haitiwaji should never have returned to Xinjiang in the first place. She left her homeland in 2006, seeking asylum in France three years before riots in Urumqi sparked a notorious crackdown. Without determination and subject to scrutiny in China, this family thrived in Boulogne. What brought Haitiwaji back, in 2016, was a mysterious phone call asking her to come back to arrange her pension. Despite everyone’s reservations, she still did.
Hours after she landed, police caught her with a photo of her daughter Gulhumar at a Uyghur secession rally in Paris. Along with that, Haitiwaji – a mother in her 50s – was charged with conspiring with terrorists and sent to a re-education camp. One detainee was “accused of selling banned religious CDs,” recalls Haitiwaji. “Still others have attended a wedding where no alcohol was served.” The women were locked up in cells, fed cornmeal diluted with water and sent to classes where “trembling old ladies and tearful teenage girls” were taught propaganda glorifying and was slapped in the face. Back in France, Gulhumar lobbied politicians and reporters. In 2019, two years after a seven-year prison sentence, Haitiwaji was flown back to Paris.
Haitiwaji narrates her story to Figaro journalist Morgat, who enjoys certain liberties when it comes to first-person memoirs. (One person suspects that Haitiwaji told her that “the laughter mingled with the din of the dishes, a boisterous symphony to the tune of a lute” or that the two organizations “have seen their tenure as president.” Their incumbent directors were renewed in 2018 for three and four years, respectively.”) The book is most valuable as evidence. For the Uyghurs, Haitiwaji explains, the camps are “a kind of urban legend,” mythologized by silence: “If no one talks about them, the camps aren’t real.” Her memoirs, dedicated “to all those who fail,” contribute to an ever-growing rich and painful archive of memories.
What is China reading and why is it important?
By Megan Walsh
136 pages. Columbia Global Report. Paper, $16.
The right to freedom of speech – and not more loftyly speaking, to the freedom to write good fiction – has long been controversial with the regime’s exhortations to “tell China’s story well”, which Xi Jinping urged both artists and diplomats. As writer Han Dong shrugs in a poem, describing flowers scattered in the mist: “Even if I see them, I can’t remember / Even if I remember, I can’t write about them.”
“Forbidden in China” is often the basis for what is good and what is not worth reading, journalist Walsh observes in his vivid, lucid survey of contemporary Chinese fiction. What Walsh calls the “penetrating relationship between narrative and personal stories” can detract from reading, especially for Western audiences, to the least interesting question: What does this favor Or against the party? OK, but what about the characters or plot? Walsh promises us a deeper insight into something deeper: “a complex and confusing tapestry that gives a fascinating impression of Chinese society itself.”
Walsh covers the basics in paragraphs about Yan Lianke, Yu Hua, Can Xue, Su Tong and other giants of the past 20 years in mainland fiction. Renowned for their amusing parables of the night, these authors create dreamscapes where recall is, at worst, an indictable offense – in “Shadow of the Hunter” ‘ by Su Tong, an old man ‘was made to dig through the streets in search of his ancestors. bones” – or simply fatigue, a point Yan Lianke mocks in a novel where a teenager compares his work to “deserted graves”. But the scope of the Chinese novel is very broad, and therefore, very remarkable, that of Walsh. She explores comics alt; martial arts novels (banned in Mao’s time: How can there be wary warriors in a Communist utopia?); poetry by migrant factory workers (“after it happened, she / didn’t cry and didn’t scream / she just grabbed her finger / and walked away”); online fantasy sagas (their heroes “shameless” and “borderline gangsters,” Walsh notes dryly) are devoured by half a billion readers; and China’s increasingly exportable science fiction. Walsh delivers a corny story that invites readers who generally don’t know Han Han’s Mo Yan.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/books/review/nathan-law-freedom-gulbahar-haitiwaji-rozenn-morgat-megan-walsh-the-subplot-i-survived-a-chinese-reeducation-camp.html China’s Types of Repression